2.5 mins | 630 words
By: Elana Graham
Ottawa is emerging as a centre of Cyber Security excellence in the Canadian business landscape. Over the past few years, the city has experienced a boom in cybersecurity companies. From privacy-enhanced behavioural biometrics to 3D visualization of cyber threats, Ottawa produces innovative cybersecurity companies at an unprecedented rate.
Given that Canadian businesses were impacted to the tune of $2.3 billion in cyber attacks in 2019, this growth in the cybersecurity sector makes sense. Especially now: since the COVID lockdowns began in early 2020, Canada has experienced multiple cyber threats impacting corporate and government networks alike. A growing commitment to cybersecurity is an indication of Ottawa’s competitive and innovative strength.
Endpoint Security for the Masses
In recent years, cybercriminals have made their mark on small and large organizations alike.
Ransomware attacks have targeted government agencies, universities and non-profits. One Canadian insurance company paid over $1million to cybercriminals after its firewall was bypassed, and the corporate network was infiltrated. Over 19% of Canadian small businesses indicated they were impacted by cybersecurity incidents in 2017.
No organization is too large or too small to avoid the roving eye of cybercriminals.
Ottawa-based cyber defence company CYDEF was established for exactly that reason: to make doing business on the Internet safe for businesses of all sizes.
After several decades of studying and working in cybersecurity (including at the NRCAN Cybersecurity Lab in Ottawa), CYDEF co-founder Tiago de Jesus came up with the concept for an innovative tool that would provide verifiable endpoint detection and analytics at a price point all businesses could afford.
Tiago envisioned an intuitive platform capable of detecting threats and generating actionable information without requiring a senior security resource’s skilled intervention. The platform would effectively remove the demand for expensive security personnel but deliver similar value.
Ottawa entrepreneur Paul Hindo was the first to see the possibility of CYDEF’s unique approach. As an entrepreneur and founder of multiple businesses, Paul understood first-hand the need to protect sensitive business data while respecting the corporate budget. Intrigued by the concept of ‘cybersecurity for all,’ Paul became CYDEF’s first investor.
Filling a Gap in the Ottawa-Gatineau Cyber Cluster
Like many companies dedicated to making Ottawa a hub for cybersecurity, CYDEF is dedicated to creating a safe online environment.
In 2018, CYDEF to embarked on a joint experiment with Zeropoint Security and the Secdev Foundation supporting at-risk Non-Governmental Organizations in regions (like occupied Ukraine). Operating with little to no IT budget, these organizations were frequently the targets of nation-state attacks. They required support to monitor and detect cyberattacks on individual endpoints. Without this support, they would be left at the mercy of attackers.
From 2018 until 2020, CYDEF identified and stopped several attacks. In some cases, the malware had been operational on the networks for a long time was discovered with the help of CYDEF’s unique agent.
Admittedly, these are extreme examples of organizations struggling to make ends meet. NGO employees frequently seek out freely available tools. In turn, the tools result in breaches that threaten the organization’s data security.
Education on the Forefront
This example is not unlike the reality facing businesses around the world today. As many businesses commit to keeping their workforces safe by allowing them to work from home, employees may not understand the full extent of their online actions.
That’s why education about IT ‘hygiene’ is the first line of defence against cyber attacks. Even with endpoint security tools in place, developing an understanding of how cybercriminals attack is paramount to maintaining a secure environment.
Endpoint security companies, like CYDEF, provide the last line of defence to secure a network. Education, on the other hand, provides frontline workers with the capacity to watch and notice.
About the author
Elana Graham is the Co-Founder and COO of CYDEF. She combines almost two decades in the Canadian Armed Forces with extensive project management experience, a PENG designation and an MBA. She’s a proud part of the core management team at CYDEF.